All sorts From The Cut (And A Big Surprise!)

Finally, I’ve managed to find a few afternoons and a couple of spare days to wet a line. I didn’t want to travel far, so I fished lobworms on one of my local ‘cuts’ hoping for a big perch or two.

My tackle and bait was the same as it’s always been. 4lb line straight through to a size 8 to 12 hook, depending on how finicky the fish are. I use a small 2 Swan shot paternoster some 3 feet above the hook and bait is always the ever reliable lobworm. That’s as simple as it gets. I use light bobbins combined with alarms for bite indication. That way I can scan the water looking for fish activity, without missing any bites.

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I was worried I may be too late for the perch, as prior to spawning they seem to shut up shop and vanish. The first evening was promising though as I landed a perch of 2lb 11oz as well as a very fat bream that was almost 6lbs

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After that promising start though, it soon became apparent that I was too late for a big perch as my bobbins danced to the bites from all kinds of fish. Roach, bream, silver bream, roach x bream hybrids and lots of smaller perch all took a liking to my juicy lobworm hook baits

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I also caught a few of those rarest of fish from a South Yorkshire canal……Sea trout!! That’s right, I caught 3 sea trout and I know mates who were fishing the same water caught a few of these too!! How strange.

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The biggest problem has been the amount of jack pike that take the worms. I’ve not encountered these before on worms, but everybody was getting plagued by them this season. There must be a good head of them in the canal. Lets hope the balance of predators isn’t shifting from big perch to lots of small pike.

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On my last attempt for a big perch, in mid April, I sat biteless until well into the afternoon when a dog walker shouted over from the far bank. He told me there was a big pike sat in the margins on his side of the canal. When I enquired how big, he said it was ‘as big as his dog’…..which was a labrador!!! When perch fishing I always have a lure rod stashed in my holdall, so I reeled the worms in and went to the far side of the canal to see if I could catch this ‘dog’ of a pike. After 30 minutes of flinging my lures everywhere, I’d not seen ‘the’ pike, or any pike. I’d not had a follow or anything. I wondered if I’d been had or not!

I returned to base and carried on with the worm fishing and caught some perch around a pound plus a nice chunky roach. In the warm weather and clear water, a carp could be seen cruising over my baited areas and it looked a good size too. As the light faded and I struck into a jerky bite, I thought this is what I was attached too, as it was a lump of a fish that I couldn’t do much with. It stayed deep and every time I got it close in, it would power off to the other side of the canal. After this process had been repeated 3 times, it came to the surface on the far side where I spotted the shape of a pike. Thinking I was playing one of the troublesome ‘jacks’ I gave it all the 4lb line could give, but I was struggling to do much with it.

Eventually, after a good few minutes, a very fat pike squeezed into my 30 inch landing net, complete with my lobworm hooked in the scissors of its jaw! It was here that things went a bit strange. I thought I saw another fin in a strange place on the pike. It was only when I tried to lift the net all hell broke loose. There were actually 3 pike in my net! A quick inspection revealed a couple of red, battered looking males that must have stuck to the female, during the fight, like glue! I was gobsmacked and could only just lift the net out of the water.

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I quickly weighed the males before putting them straight back. This was because I’ve heard it said that they don’t usually weigh much more than 6lbs. These males went 5.14 and 8lb 1oz, so I suppose thats not bad for a male pike (I think)

Then I weighed the big girl before taking 2 quick photos. She went 20lbs 15oz which is a cracking pike from a canal, although I didn’t catch it how I’d have liked to. I wonder if it was the pike that was “as big as a dog” It was certainly fat enough.

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And with that fantastic, but bizarre capture, my perch season is over (I think) and it’s time to target other fish and take on new challenges. I’ll leave you with one last photo of a silver bream and a roach x bream hybrid, as many people confuse the pair for each other. After catching both on my worms, I couldn’t resist taking this photo, though the fading light makes the subtle differences harder to spot.

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Ending The Season In Style?

Is it just me, or do the last few weeks of the river season fly by in a blur? All those plans I had will have to wait for another few months at least.

With spare time at a premium this year, I managed to sneak in a last gasp evening session just before the March 14th deadline. I wanted to do battle with a barbel so I headed for the River Trent, despite the freezing overnight temperatures. When I arrived at my chosen stretch I was surprised to see the river a couple of feet up, with a good bit of colour too. The temperatures weren’t favourable, but the water levels were. At least I had something to give me hope! Those hopes were almost extinguished by the bailiff who arrived out of nowhere.

He went on to say that no barbel had been landed from the stretch for a while, despite plenty of anglers targeting them. This made me change tack slightly. Instead of doing what everyone else was doing, I fished a couple of big baits right in the edge of the river, just a few feet from the bank. All kinds of negative thoughts clouded my head, but I was just happy to be in the fresh air, having time to reflect, whilst having a nice mug of coffee.

Those tranquil thoughts were interrupted as my downstream rod was yanked round by a barbel,. By the time I picked up the rod I think it was on it’s way to Gainsborough it was running so hard! Rather than pump it back against the heavy flow, I walked downstream with my landing net and soon landed a beauty of a winter barbel. As I struggled to lift it from the water I realised that it was obviously well into double figures.

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When I placed it on the mat, I noticed that the hook had fallen out in the net, which shows how small things can make the day a success or not, fish wise. Just before that last cast, I noticed my hook wasn’t as sharp as it should be, so I changed it. With the new sharp one falling out in the net, would the blunt hook have had such a good hold? Would it have been the one that got away? Of course, nobody will ever know, but it’s nice to think these small things make a difference.

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The scales gave a pleasing weight of 13lbs 7oz which more than made me happy, especially as everyone else was struggling. I stayed on into dark, despite the temperatures falling to freezing. As I sipped the last dregs of coffee from my flask, the upstream rod started bucking in the rests and I was doing battle number two. Sadly this wasn’t to be. A grating sensation could be felt in the fight as the line rubbed against a snag. After a few seconds, a feeder whizzed upstream as the hook link parted. I threw the rod in the car and packed the rest of the gear away. It had been a bittersweet ending to the season………Roll on June the 16th!!!!

Roach Magic!

After getting back out on the bank and catching some nice chub, I decided to get out again as soon as possible. Taking advantage of a spare afternoon, I went to get the chub tackle out of the garage, but noticed it seemed a bit milder. I checked the temperature on my phone and noticed it was 9 degrees, up from the 4 / 5 we’d had for the last few days. I decided to push my luck and see if a big roach or two would have a feed. Living in a river they’d have to feed sometime, so I took a chance.

After a quick drive to the tackle shop to buy a pint of white maggots, I was soon teasing my crystal dibber down a stretch of a small local river. After a dozen or so trots without a bite, I moved to another area, choosing a nice steady glide.

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The first few runs through saw me get the bait just tripping the bottom, on the next the float jabbed under. A steady sweep of the rod saw it take on a sweet curve as I hit into a decent fish. After a lull of a second or so, the ‘jag jag glide’ sensation told me I could be attached to my intended quarry. With the fish being about 15 yards or so downstream, I walked slowly towards it to reduce the chances of a hook pull and make the fight a shorter one. I was greeted by the sight of a large silver shape holding itself across the current, like a grayling uses its sail like fin to its advantage. I now knew I was playing a large winter redfin and I tried my best to keep calm. A tiny size 22 hook and 0.9mm line were all that was keeping me in contact with my prize. Luckily for me, everything held firm and I landed it at the first time of asking.

I laid it on the mat and knew that it was over the magic 2lbs barrier. The question was by how much. First I took a quick snap on my camera phone before sending it to my mate Martin.

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The scales hovered just under the 2lbs 3oz mark so I settled on an ounce lower. I placed it back on the mat and marvelled at one of natures finest, a mixture of silver flanks, marked with tales of near misses on its way to the legendary 2lbs size. There was the winter sheen on the top half of its flank, like a shot of electric blue painted on its scales. The fins were blood red and the orange eye was straight out of a textbook. What a fish it was, and not from one of the famous chalk streams, but from a river right on my doorstep. I felt a lucky man to have seen such a creature up close.

After a few more traditional photos of me holding the fish, I let her go, hoping her and the small number of shoal mates she swims with carry on avoiding predators for a few more winters to come. The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting, mainly on the phone to Martin. Roach trips for the future were planned plus I didn’t need to carry on fishing. My day had been made already.

A couple of days later on my day off work, the temperature had shot up to 14 degrees. Martin text messaged me asking if I was fishing for roach in such favourable weather, but I was on such a roll I’d gone fishing for a big winter barbel. Like all good runs, this one came crashing to an end as the rod tips remained motionless all day. Maybe I was pushing things too far, but after the previous two afternoons can you blame me?

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Reliable Chevins Get Me Back In The Groove!

After an absence of almost 3 months I was finally able to wet a line. I’ve done all the jobs I can do in my house, I just need to finish a few things off after the plumber has been……However, there has been more sightings of Lord Lucan than my plumber so, after another ‘no show’, I thought ‘sod it’ and decided to go fishing! I just hope moving into my new house and renovating the other doesn’t take as long!

Anyway, back to the fishing. Temperatures had plunged to well bellow freezing at night, and were forecast to reach about 5 degrees in the day. A biting wind would make it feel much colder though. The only species that I thought would give me a realistic chance of getting a bend in my rod were either chub or pike. I fancied a more roving kind of session so I chose the chub.

There’s a few local rivers really close to my home that offer a good chance of a chub or two, but sadly none seem to produce any really big fish (by modern standards anyway) Still, today was all about getting my string pulled so I bought a loaf of bread, then headed to the river.

The river was a lot lower and clearer than I’d imagined. This, coupled with the fact that most of the vegetation had died, led to me fishing a lot finer than normal. 3lb fluorocarbon hook links were teamed with a size 16 wide gape hook. A small cage feeder carried some mashed bread and a pinch of flake was squeezed onto the bend of the hook.

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I dropped into a classic ‘Crabtree’ swim, some slack water behind a raft of dead weed. After a few casts and 45 minutes, I received my first indication. I left things for another 10 minutes before this time the tip wrenched round. Battle commenced with a heavy weight plodding around, but not really testing my tackles limits. Soon, a big pair of white lips surfaced and I scooped chub number one into my net.

It looked an old fish with a mish mash of colours along its flanks. It was very broad across the back though so I decided to weigh it. At 4lb 10oz, it was a good fish for my area and a great way to blow the cobwebs off.

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After moving swims, I had an hour or so without any action so I decided to try trotting a float. I couldn’t help but think my constant trickle of mashed bread would have some chub waiting for more, but fishing a static bait meant I wasn’t covering much water. This proved to be a good move because straightaway I was into a fish. This was an average sized fish of around 3lbs. I placed it in a net because I wondered if there were any more willing to feed. I soon had my answer as another lump of a chub joined it in the net.

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This was another solid, broad fish so I weighed it. This time a weight of exactly 5lbs was recorded, a monster for my area, and from such a tiny river. On the next trot I was in again, but luck wasn’t on my side this time as the hook pulled just before I caught sight of it. After this I received no more bites, despite covering a lot of water. I returned the chub and returned home to think the session over.

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Despite being happy at catching on such a cool day, I wondered if I’d fed for another hour or so before trotting, or rested the swim for a while after each fish, I’d have caught more. The lost fish showed me there were more fish in the swim, but if you’d offered me three prime chub before starting, I’d have bitten your hand off. I just hope it’s not another few months before my next trip!!!

 

A Review of 2015 And A Different 2016!

2015 was a bit of an up and down year for me, fishing wise that is!

The downs were that Sway Lakes, my favourite venue for some peaceful specimen roach fishing, just didn’t fish very well at all. In the few trips I had there I still landed some nice fish, but not the numbers of 2lb fish I’d caught in previous years. I never came close to seeing a 3lb + redfin, of which I’d been fortunate to catch 2 the previous year. Most roach were caught at night too, which was a change.

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I did have the heartbreak of losing a very big perch at the net, but was lucky enough to catch it just before it spawned at a weight of 4lbs. What a perfect example of the species it was.

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As the end of the river season approached, I tried for chub on a local river, but only caught the same fish twice. This lead me to have a closer look at the river in the summer which was an eye opener. There weren’t many fish in the river, but some were very big for the area. I might have a go for those in the future!

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I also fished the River Frome for the first time ever. I landed a string of grayling, but not the hoped for 3lb+ monsters. A number of fish in the 1-2lb bracket made for a great days trotting though, before heavy rain killed sport for the day!

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The period that bridges the end of winter and the warmer weather always throws up conundrums on what to fish for. For 2015 I chose to target some perch I’d seen in a local canal. Some great sport followed with numbers of 2lb+ fish, quite a few that made it over 3lbs, plus a cracker of 4lbs 1oz. Terrific sport on my own doorstep. Everything was caught on link legered lobworms, except one 3lb+ stripey that fell to a lure. Simple, quality fishing.

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In spring I tried for a double figure tench from Bawburgh Lakes. After a fact finding first week on the place, which led to a couple of fish to over 8lbs, the rest of the spring was written off as I broke my ribs in a comedy fall.

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I was in too much pain to fish effectively and found out the hard way you don’t bounce when you fall like I did a few years ago! I met some great guys on the place though and had the pleasure to photograph my mate Adam with a huge tench of almost 12lbs!!!

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I had my annual rudd fishing trip into the Fens. The fishing seems to get tougher with each passing year, but the bars of gold still put in an appearance every now and then

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I had a couple of trips to the Hampshire Avon where I targeted the big roach, but caught many more dace!

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Autumn was the highlight of my year though as I found a shoal of roach in a local river that had me foaming at the mouth. Being right on my doorstep I could fish for them when I wanted and soon racked up some stunning catches. Many fish were landed over a pound and a half, with 5 landed of 2lbs and above. 4 of these were landed in one afternoon and is a catch I may never repeat. This would be a special catch on a southern chalk stream, but these were from a tiny northern river!

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My year finished off with a few trips for barbel. The middle and tidal Trent was fished with good doubles landed from both areas of the river

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This leads me right up to today where I’m now struggling to wet a line. As I type this, I’ve had no time at all for fishing in 2016. The reason is I’m moving into a new house with my girlfriend and we’re renting a couple of houses out. This means many, many jobs need to be done, things moved from one house to another, loads of things need to be thrown out and much, much more! It’ll be worth it in the end, but this year could see many more short, local trips made instead of the trips down south. When I get time I can get back to normality, but this will be in a few months at least. Still, as you’ve read above, there are some hidden jewels to be found locally. Let’s hope I find a few more in 2016! Tight lines to everyone out there that reads this blog, and may your PBs be smashed. Happy 2016!!!!

Double? No Trouble

As I mentioned at the end of my last blog, the strong winds coupled with mild temperatures and some rain meant that it had to be time to try for a barbel. For mid November the weather was crazy, with night time temperatures of over 15 degrees, not to mention new record daytime highs for the month. I was chomping at the bit to get on the bank, but with things getting hectic at work I couldn’t fish as much as I wanted too.

My first trip saw me on the banks of the mighty River Trent on what is termed the ‘middle Trent’ A look at the river was promising, as it was slightly up and carrying a tinge of colour, perfect! What wasn’t perfect was the amount of dead weed that was coming down in the flow, along with plenty of leaves. This is problematic in that it builds up on your line and moves your feeders. On a boulder strewn river like the Trent, this can result in a lot of lost tackle as the moving feeder invariably finds a snag. I’d just have to do a bit more recasting than normal, hopefully it wouldn’t spook any fish in the area. In case I lose a number of feeders, I always keep a few spare in the car. You don’t want to be carrying a sackful of ‘Trent Specials’ any distance to your peg!

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Arriving at my swim with just a couple of hours of daylight left, I was confident of catching a few fish, the conditions were that good. I fished feeders on both rods and crammed into them was a mixture of broken boilies, pellets of all sizes, and fishmeal groundbait to bind it all together, a perfect mixture for the Trent. Main line was 12lbs, hook links were 3ft lengths of 11b fluorocarbon and the hooks were size 12 (one of the carp style size 12s that are more like a size 8!) Bait on both hair rigged hooks would be 2 x 15mm boilies, trimmed down to make them the size of one and a half boilies! I think this lets a bit more flavour leak out into the swim and it deters a lot of smaller fish.

As darkness fell I was ready for packing in. I was fed up of constantly recasting and clearing debris off the lines, plus the wind was blowing like I’ve never known it blow before. The rods were bouncing all over the place. The only thing that had stopped me going home was that I was now sheltering from some pretty heavy rain. I didn’t fancy a soaking too! During a lull in the rain I thought about packing my gear away, when I noticed a savage ‘twang’ on my downstream rod. Nothing happened straight after so I knew either a chub had tried to pinch the bait or a barbel had brushed the line. I made a coffee and sat tight. Halfway through that drink I had my answer to the culprit as the same rod folded in half in that oh so classic barbel twitch. Thank goodness for baitrunners!

I lifted into what felt a heavy fish, there was nothing I could do as it took line steadily off a tight clutch, aided by the powerful flow. A few times I stopped it and brought it a short distance upstream, only for the process to be repeated. As the banks were angler free and barren of any bankside obstacles, I picked my landing net up and threw it a distance downstream (down gale!) javelin style. I then headed downstream myself, carefully keeping in contact with whatever was on the end of my line. Eventually, I got the better of the fish and a pale shape came into view of my head torch. It was indeed the intended barbel, but I’d half expected a carp such was the doggedness of the fight. lt slid into the net with no problems, but it didn’t look that big, maybe a low double.

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It was only when I placed it on the unhooking mat that I realised it might be larger than I first thought. It was like a barrel, as wide as it was deep, a proper boilie muncher! I couldn’t tell when I lifted the net from the water as it was my first trip with a lighter landing net head. I weighed it, in the still air, behind my shelter and was shocked at the weight of 13b 7oz. I made sure the scales were properly zeroed and tried again, only to have the same weight as the needle flickered between 13.7 and 13.8. I settled on the lower weight. What a fish and well worth braving the bad weather.

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After struggling for a couple of decent self take photos in the bad conditions, I watched the barbel sulk away into the depths, then started to pack up. I only managed to get half of my gear packed away when the rains came again. It took me even longer when I reeled in my other rod and there was a good bream on the end. By the time I’d reached the car I was soaked, but inside I was warm. I hoped to return when the debris wouldn’t be as much of a problem.

A few days later I was back on the Trent, but this time on the tidal river. I was surprised to see a lot of colour had dropped out of the water, and that it looked more like the river in summer. This worries me as we’ve had a lot of rain. It looks like we need a lot more to get our rivers back to normal autumn / winter levels. I had my gear set up from the trip before so it was a case of casting out the feeders and patiently building the swim up, as this time I had 4 hours to fish before nightfall.

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I was disappointed not to catch a fish in the daylight, but as dusk fell the rod tops started twitching and hammering round. The first fish was a Trent special. At an ounce under 11lbs, it was like a torpedo and fought very well. I don’t measure my fish, but I’d bet it was longer than the 13.7 fish I’d caught before. It gave me hope for bigger things to come!

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The action intensified after the first fish, but no larger barbel were landed. I didn’t even weigh them, but I’d guess the 3 other barbel were between 7 and 9lbs. Good fish, but no cigar. I didn’t photograph them as the wind was getting up to dangerous levels again. I unhooked them in the net next to the water and just returned them. If I’d have caught a suspected double, I’d have clambered up the slippy rocks for a weight and a photo.

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I also landed half a dozen good bream. I’d estimate them averaging around 5-6lbs. They were pests tonight on my heavy barbel gear, but how I’d have loved catching any one of them in my past club matches on the river! Those ‘pests’ would have won me a lot of money back then! It shows how the river’s changing. In fact the Trent must be the most prolific barbel river in the country in terms of the double figure fish it produces. I’ll even say that a 10lb + barbel from the Trent is now a fairly common fish, not that I’m complaining……….In fact long may it continue!!

 

 

The Winds Of Change

Again, with the weather so mild for November and a few shoals of specimen roach on my doorstep, I was drawn into another day chasing big redfins. I used my tried and tested trotting tactics, using tiny dibber floats that have been so successful for me over the years.

Before I tell you about the days fishing, I’ll tell you how I got onto using these floats for big roach. Years ago, as a boy, I used to love trotting for big roach in small clear rivers. They were very hard to catch and you could see their nervous reaction to even a very small stick float. When pole fishing started to become popular, tiny dibber floats appeared on the shelves in tackle shops. Originally, they were designed for fishing casters on the far bank shelves of canals. The domed tip was to stop them from being dragged under by the tow of the water, as the tactic was to lay a few inches of line on the canal bed. I just thought they looked like miniature stick floats and tried a few on my local rivers. The results were very impressive. Where one big roach a day had once been a good result, I was now catching double figures almost every time. I now regret not carrying a set of scales and a camera back then, but I was just happy catching big roach, in fact any roach!

Fast forward 20 years or so and I still use these floats in small clear rivers. They can fool the wariest of roach into taking your bait in crystal clear shallow water

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If you get your feeding right and get a shoal of roach competing for bait, a big catch can be on the cards, like this net of pound plus roach, the best being around 1lb 8oz. I doubt I’d have caught more than a couple of fish using any other float as the river was only 18 inches deep!

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I’ve even used the tactic on the Hampshire Avon in the summer to fool wary roach. The below catch was taken using a dibber with elderberries and tares on the hook. It’s tricky casting such a tiny float very far, but with a bit of practice you can do it, it’s just that you look like a fly fisherman at times! A pole is a useful tool to trot your dibber with pin point accuracy. I’ve caught a few big roach doing this and once lost a huge roach on the Avon with this method. A downstream wind helps with this tactic as you can keep the pole from waving above any fishes heads. Simply lift the rig into the air, ten yards or so upstream of the intended quarry, then let the wind blow it down towards the head of your swim. All you need to do then is keep a reasonably tight line as you tease your bait through towards your intended target fish.

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Anyway, that’s the method and reasoning covered, back onto the session. The roach are a bit nervous now after I’ve caught numbers of the shoal. This means it’s tricky to catch any of the big girls as their smaller bodyguards seem to be on the bait in a flash. The rain that’s  coloured the water and debris coming down in the flow also make it very hard to pick out the largest fish in a shoal.

What I did was move around the river looking for any roach then having a dabble for them. I reasoned any roach would do, if I caught a specimen it would be a bonus. The best fish from my first swim was a lovely redfin of 1lb 8oz with a few other fish over a pound as well. These fish fill me with as much joy as the 2lb + fish. It shows that there’s a mix of all year classes coming through, the sign of a healthy river.

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Some of the roach seem to have won the odd battle with pike…….just!

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I covered a lot more river for little reward before heading to my most productive swim so far. Just as dusk was falling (and the rain!) I hit into another belter of a roach. It went into the net with no alarm, pulling the needle on the scales round to 2lb 2oz. It may have been a recapture of one of my previous ‘2’s, but I can’t be 100% whether it is or isn’t.

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After getting Martin out to take the photo for me, I watched her swim back into the river. I felt the satisfaction of an Autumn roach campaign being completed in style. I’d had my fill, though I think I’ll be back more than once in the winter. The wind was picking up, the rain was falling, but it was 15 degrees……… I think it’s time to get the barbel tackle out!

 

Autumn Glory Continues

Following on from my mind blowing local roach catch in my last update, I simply had to give the river some more attention. Even though I don’t like flogging venues to death, experience has taught me that good fishing can be here one day, but gone the next.

I’d kept my eye on the shoal of roach, but the river was getting far too low and clear, making the fish very nervous. A few days of rain sorted that problem out, though the extra water and autumnal weather saw all kinds of debris floating down stream. Also, I knew I wouldn’t be able to target individual specimens, so it was just a case of trotting the stream and seeing what was willing to feed.

While I rigged my light stick float rig up, I flicked a dozen or so casters into the swim every 30 seconds. Hopefully this would get any big roach in the area feeding confidently before I started. It certainly did the trick as on the first run down, the float vanished from sight. The strike met firm resistance, then followed the familiar ‘jag jag glide’ sensation from a big roach hooked in flowing water. I took my time in playing it to the net, where it was landed at the first time of asking. After shipping the net back and folding the mesh away I was met by the sight of a stunning fish, not the hoped for 2 pound specimen, but one not too far away. The scales gave a reading of 1lb 11oz, a fish that would have had me doing cartwheels a few weeks earlier, prior to my previous efforts.

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After the good start, a couple of smaller roach fell to my rod, before I landed a couple more belters up to probably a pound and a quarter. By now, steady rain had started to fall, spoiling things somewhat. I continued feeding my casters and running my float over the top of the feed. Every so often the float would jag under and the prize would be a quality roach or a chunky chub. I think the fact I’d fed a little heavier this time had drawn a shoal of chub into the swim. I didn’t like this as I felt that for every fish I hooked in the swim, my chances of catching one of the 2lb roach reduced somewhat.

I did manage to catch a couple more big roach as the light faded. One was unweighed, but around 1lb 8oz, the other I did weigh which pulled the needle on the scales round to 1lb 13oz, a magnificent roach. The steady rain meant I didn’t take a photo of me holding it, I didn’t want to ruin my camera by giving it a soaking!

I did take a photo of some of my final catch on the mat, before quickly putting them back. I’m sure you’ll agree it was indeed a day of ‘Autumn Glory’

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The final catch was 4 chub to around 4lbs and 8 roach to 1lb 13oz. I love catching all fish, but these big roach from a local river ‘up north’ are the real stars for me

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Redfin Heaven

This summer I’ve done a lot of walking on the banks of my local rivers. Some are within walking distance, others require a few minutes travelling in my car. To say I was disappointed with what I saw is an understatement, though I did find a lot of chub in certain areas of certain rivers. Even a local drain, that’s more like a ditch in places, turned out to be stuffed with decent chub, if you knew the exact overgrown spot to look at.

What I wanted was a decent local river roach, but they were very thin on the ground and the best I saw might have gone 10oz at best. Every time I glimpsed at the clear spots in the weed beds, I could have swore I saw big roach before realising the cupboard was bare and my eyes were playing tricks. It was either that or I was seeing the ghosts of the past, big majestic river roach.

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I’ve watched one shoal of roach for a while, hoping they grow to be monsters, but it seemed they never wanted to grow more than 8oz or so. I started to feed them some elderberries on my last walk and I managed to get one of them to come right under my feet, intercepting the berries as they slowly sank in the flow. It looked slightly better than I’d thought, maybe a pound, certainly no more. I don’t know why, but I decided to get my gear and have a go at catching it.

When I returned, I also came with a bag of old casters as well as the ‘berries’. After a few minutes of feeding I had most of the shoal eating my casters. They certainly seemed to prefer these over the more natural offerings. I set up a standard trotting rig, but used a crystal dibber float to avoid spooking any wary roach. I isolated what seemed the largest roach under my feet and trotted my caster right down into it’s line of sight. Straight away it rose to sip my caster in, oh so delicately, then returned to its starting position. I gently swept the rod to set the hook, and this is when the moon, stars, sun and every other thing in the solar system aligned to make my century, never mind day, week or year!

The roach didn’t budge, then realising something was wrong it wallowed out to the middle of the river. I was thinking something was wrong. My rod was bent right round and I had to give line to this ‘average’ sized roach. Just then, as I realised that maybe I’d misjudged things, the roach came to the surface, thrashed once and was gone as the tiny size 18 hook pinged out. It took a few seconds to sink in, but I suddenly realised that I’d lost a BIG roach, certainly over 2lbs, and on my own doorstep!

Despite more careful loose feeding I couldn’t get that fish to feed again, though its shoal mates seemed oblivious to what had just happened. I decided to catch some of the other roach, selecting the ones that seemed slightly bigger than the rest. As before, the first trot was right on the money and another roach was hooked. The fight was as before, but this one didn’t come off. I managed to get it upstream of the other roach where it could fight without unsettling the rest of the shoal then, when it was ready, I eased it into my landing net. I was still struggling to believe what my tackle had been telling me, until I lifted the sagging net handle up and placed my hand under the fish. I knew this was a 2 pound roach at least. It wasn’t very long, but so deep and broad.

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I realised I was onto something very special for a local river, so took the above shot on my phone and sent it to my mate Martin, asking him to come and take some photos. I then weighed it at 2lb 2oz and placed it into my keep net, positioned 20 yards upstream.

I repeated the above tactics to the larger roach, catching another beauty of 2lb 1oz before Martin could arrive. When he arrived I could see he was a tad confused, as I was, that the roach i was showing him were 2lbs or there abouts. I proceed to catch the next one before his eyes, then we weighed it together at just under 2lbs 1oz, settling for 2lbs exactly. This prompted Martin to go for a walk to see if he could find any other decent looking roach.

The roach had now backed off to the far bank reeds making it impossible for me to be selective about what I caught. This meant that my next 2 roach were under 2lbs, but over 1.8. A size I’d have been blown away with before my trio of ‘2’s Martin returned and said we’d better take the photos as he had to be home for his tea. I did the obligatory ‘one last cast’ and hooked into another fine specimen of a roach. After a battle where I really had to bully it, due to the appearance of a small pike with eyes bigger than it’s belly, I landed and weighed yet another roach of exactly 2lbs. What a day, one I’d never forget.

When I pulled the net out of the water to show Martin my bag of fine roach, he was blown away. There was well over 11lbs of prime roach in my net, comprising of just 6 fish, with 4 of 2lbs or over!

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I put the smaller roach straight back, something I regret now as any roach over a pound and a half around my local area is a big fish, worthy of a photo.

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After the individual shots of each fish, I then took one last photo of the full catch before heading for home. The difference was this time there was no 4 hour drive back. Absolute bliss, and a day I’ll probably never repeat for as long as I live!

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Late Summer / Early Autumn Ramblings

Sorry for a lack of updates of late. I’ve not done too much fishing, but I’ve done a fair bit of walking on my local rivers. I’ve come to a conclusion that my local rivers are dire to say the least, or at least the smaller more intricate rivers are. I’ve walked miles of the Torne, Idle, Ryton and Poulter and the cupboard is very bare. There’s the odd decent fish to target, but compared to 20 years ago these rivers have been destroyed. There’s a lack of water, lack of maintenance, lack of fish and more importantly (these days) a lack of people that care. The commercial fisheries attract most anglers now, for many reasons, but that shouldn’t mean the EA let our less known rivers go to the dogs. The icing on the cake is that theres a lot of small carp in some of these rivers, thanks to the EA letting everybody and his dog stock stillwaters to the hilt with them. I thought the EA were supposed to protect the environment, not completely change the face of it!

I’ve recently heard a rumour that the EA have now classed the rivers Torne and Idle as drains rather than rivers. What this means I don’t know, but if true, I bet it means they don’t have to bother maintaining them to a decent standard. As an example of whats happening, heres a photo of the Torne that I took a few weeks ago while looking for some decent sized chub.

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Can you believe I used to trot this part of the river 19 years ago for it’s shoals of specimen roach? That was the last time I trotted on this particular stretch, landing 8 good fish to over 1lb 8oz! Now, it’s chub or bust and I did find about 8 of them through the thick weed, with the odd one looking a pretty good size. I soon gave up trying to catch one though as I lost both fish I hooked, which isn’t surprising with all that weed. Maybe I’ll go back in winter.

Just to check the river wasn’t drying up, I drove a few miles downstream to where I know there’s a weir, one we used to play in as teenagers, after rowing our dinghies there. Sure enough, the river was actually ABOVE the level of the weir, something that normally happened when the Torne was carrying a drop or two of extra water

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Anyway, my last piece on the torne is this photo back from the mid 1980s when it was a fantastic big roach river. It’s the same stretch as the top photograph. What are we all doing to this planet?

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Locally, some of the good points though are that the River Don seems to get better and better, and my local canals are full of good fish. Thank goodness! But how long before the cormorants  try to put a dent in those?

Moving on, with Autumn approaching, I decided to try and catch a big roach or three! I tried Sway, but just a few decent perch and small roach were caught. Apparently it’s fished tough there this year after heavily cropping the small fish numbers. Lets hope as the natural food dies off the big girls start to eat our baits.

I followed Sway with a trip to the Hampshire Avon. Heavy rain hampered my fishing, but it also put the slightest tinge of colour into the river, something that can make those big specimens lose a bit of their caution.

Trotting was the order of the day with baits as diverse as casters, hemp, tares and elderberries. All were tried under a 3 number 4 stickfloat, but the dace were onto everything in a flash. I ended up with about 15lbs of them, many were quality fish between 4-8oz, as well as many more smaller samples. I did lose the best dace out of my hand while placing it in the keepnet. I reckon it must have been between 10-12oz, a ‘double dace’ is always a good fish, but this fish was having none of my planned photos!

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Pike were a problem throughout, and while they had a go at many fish, they never managed to get any off my hook. I’d been forewarned about these pike by Stuart, the river keeper, so I’d brought a pike rod too. I landed a couple and placed them in a large carp keepnet until I’d finished the session. One was around the 7lbs mark and I’ve never met a more aggressive esox. It was jumping out of the river after my dace! What a bad tempered thing. Still, I bet all those dace twisting before it drove it mad!

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In between the silver darts and aggressive pike I did manage 3 decent roach. Nothing massive, probably between a pound and a pound and a half for the best fish (unweighed!) These were still cracking fish for me though and made my day. They were caught on tares and elderberries, those most traditional of autumn baits.

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As I finish, after just watching the Autumn Glory episode of the ‘never to be equaled’ A passion for Angling series, I’ve decided to have my own Autumn glory. I think the rivers are slightly too low and clear for a barbel session. The weather is a tad too warm for some big perch, meaning I’ll get plagued by eels and small fish. That just leaves big roach. Lets see if I can get my own ‘Autumn Glory’ with some prime river roach!